Overview

Common warts are small, grainy skin growths that occur most often on your fingers or hands. Rough to the touch, common warts also often feature a pattern of tiny black dots — sometimes called seeds — which are small, clotted blood vessels.

Common warts are caused by a virus and are transmitted by touch. Children and young adults are more likely to develop common warts, as are people who have weakened immune systems. Common warts usually disappear on their own, but many people choose to remove them because they find them bothersome or embarrassing.

Symptoms

Common warts usually occur on your fingers or hands and may be:

  • Small, fleshy, grainy bumps
  • Flesh-colored, white, pink or tan
  • Rough to the touch
  • Sprinkled with black pinpoints, which are small, clotted blood vessels

When to see a doctor

See your doctor for common warts if:

  • The growths are painful or change in appearance or color
  • You've tried treating the warts, but they persist, spread or recur
  • The growths are bothersome and interfere with activities
  • You also have a weakened immune system because of immune-suppressing drugs, HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders
  • You aren't sure whether the growths are warts

Causes

Common warts are caused by an infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). More than 100 types of HPV exist, but only a few cause warts on your hands. Other types of HPV are more likely to cause warts on your feet and other areas of your skin and mucous membranes. Most types of HPV cause relatively harmless conditions such as common warts, while others may cause serious disease such as cancer of the cervix.

You can get warts from skin-to-skin contact with people who have warts. If you have warts, you can spread the virus to other places on your own body. You can also get the wart virus indirectly by touching something that another person's wart touched, such as a towel or exercise equipment. The virus usually spreads through breaks in your skin, such as a hangnail or a scrape. Biting your nails also can cause warts to spread on your fingertips and around your nails.

Each person's immune system responds to the HPV virus differently, so not everyone who comes in contact with HPV develops warts.

Risk factors

People at higher risk of developing common warts include:

  • Children and young adults
  • People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or people who've had organ transplants

Prevention

To reduce your risk of common warts:

  • Avoid direct contact with warts. This includes your own warts.
  • Don't pick at warts. Picking may spread the virus.
  • Don't use the same emery board, pumice stone or nail clipper on your warts as you use on your healthy skin and nails.
  • Don't bite your fingernails. Warts occur more often in skin that has been broken. Nibbling the skin around your fingernails opens the door for the virus.
  • Groom with care. Use a disposable emery board. And avoid brushing, clipping or shaving areas that have warts. If you must shave, use an electric razor.
  • Wash your hands carefully after touching your warts or surfaces such as shared exercise equipment.
April 09, 2015
References
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  4. AskMayoExpert. Nongenital warts (adult and pediatric). Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
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